Cutting Edge Insights
with Dr. Lee

Can Great Service Ruin a Reputation?

Anything is possible in the service industry.

Consider what started as an ordinary day in Bentonville, Arkansas, at the Oven and Tap Restaurant.

Before long, it became extraordinary.

The “$100 Club” showed up for its reservation and after receiving what the members deemed as outstanding service, attempted to leave its servers a $4,400 tip.

Then things went downhill.

The servers were told that she/they had to share the tip with the “rest” of the restaurant. For example, bartenders, cooks, and host staff – all were to receive a share of it.

But the servers said, hey, wait a minute –  in the past, the percentages that go to the other staff came out of our paycheck, not out of our cash tips.

The owners failed to comment on the sequence of events that ultimately led to the termination of at least one server.

Q:  Sounds like a classic “he said, she said” conundrum.

A:  Yep. The “$100 Club” representative claimed that he verified, in advance, that the server(s) assigned to his party would be able to keep the tip and split it amongst themselves. The restaurant denies this.

Emotional upset, hard feelings, and the retainage of attorneys ensued.

Did it have to go this way? Obviously, no.

I recently read a book, “10 Leadership Virtues for Disruptive Times” by Tom Ziglar.

Tom is the son of the late, legendary Zig Ziglar – one of the world’s foremost motivational speakers and authors. He is carrying on his father’s legacy with the Ziglar organization.

I had the good fortune to meet Tom in person in December 2021, at mutual friend Kyle Wilson’s Inner Circle Mastermind event. The founder of Jim Rohn International, Kyle is a marketing genius and was the iconic speaker and thought leader’s business partner for some 18 years.

Jim Rohn is responsible for the following quote, which is one of my absolute favorites:

“It’s important to learn from your mistakes, but it is better to learn from other people’s mistakes, and it is best to learn from other people’s successes. It accelerates your own success.”

Kyle Wilson is uniquely adept at making connections between wonderful people who have the potential to make powerful ripples in one’s life.

In his book, Tom Ziglar defines the attributes of a “Coach Leader;” leadership attributes that are necessary for organizations to not only survive, but thrive, in uncertain times. “Coach Leader” attributes can be contrasted with “T-Rex” leader attributes, the latter of which prefers to lead by control and micro-management.

How ironic that these events occurred as I was reading this book, I thought.

Then I thought of my amygdala (don’t we all, from time to time, think of our amygdala?).

The amygdala is a part of the limbic system of our brain that is responsible for processing memories, decision making, and emotional responses. For example, if I buy a red convertible, then I suddenly will begin to notice many red convertibles on the road. However, they didn’t magically appear; they were present all along. I simply didn’t notice them because they weren’t meaningful to me before I owned one of them (hypothetically).

Those of you that know me well would question the red sports car purchase. You know that I’d be more likely to acquire a truck, tool, or raw land. You’re right. But it gets the point across.

Because I was reading Tom Ziglar’s book, my brain was already in a position to notice examples of good and bad Coach Leaders.

How has the fallout affected the restaurant?

I don’t know for sure, because I don’t live in the Bentonville, AK area. But a brief examination of the social media reputation of the restaurant revealed that they had been slammed on Yelp and other sites. Hundreds of times. Society tends to take the side of the little guy in any dispute.

The purpose of this article isn’t to take sides or disparage the restaurant. I want all businesses to succeed. Regardless of whether or not I like them. Small business is the backbone of any local economy and every small business that does not survive or thrive affects its local economy in some incremental yet negative way.

Was there a better way to have handled the situation?

I was discussing this with a friend the other day. I felt that regardless of the background of the circumstances surrounding the tip, regardless of the restaurant’s tip policy, this would have been an incredible opportunity to both build goodwill with one’s employees and also be the recipient of positive and uplifting recognition. To make a wave in the community. To receive national recognition in a good way instead of a bad way. To attract more business than they would know what to do with.

My idea:

“Here, servers. Take the $4,400 tip. You earned it. Thank you for doing a great job for this large party, so great that it would consider leaving such a large and generous tip. That speaks volumes of your work ethic and diligence.

Now, for the rest of the employees – these servers couldn’t have earned the $4,400 and the recognition that comes along with it without your help. We all play for the same team here – no one works in a vacuum. We’d like to make this meaningful for everyone, especially around the holiday season. Therefore, we are going to take $4,400 out of our own pocket to split between all the other employees working that day.

Oh, by the way, a few of you weren’t scheduled to work that day. Here is a holiday bonus, roughly the same amount that everyone else received above. We sincerely appreciate your contributions to our collective success.

Can you imagine how much goodwill and positive energy would have been generated by that gesture? How many five-star reviews? How many more reservations? The likelihood of the restaurant needing to expand – either its hours or with a second location?

Q:  But $4,400+ is a lot of money.

A:  It sure is! I would imagine that any restaurant spends at least $4,400 in marketing, probably a lot more, during the course of a year. And I can’t imagine any other way to spend $4,400 that would generate the return on investment as what I’ve outlined above.

Q:  But they may not have $4,400+.

A:  They certainly should. Any business owner should have enough cash and liquidity for opportunities such as this. (See last week’s blog post, “Savers are Losers,” here). Otherwise, how do they pay their vendors? Their landlord? Their payroll?

Q:  But things may be tight.

A:  I get it. Borrow the money! I really think this was an excellent opportunity placed in their laps and they should have pursued it, maximized it, and exploited it no matter the perceived “cost.”  It was an opportunity that they unfortunately let slip away, and now the waters have turned dark and cold. And unforgiving. How can you dig yourselves out from under the reputation of several hundred negative yelp reviews, even if they’re illegitimate?

The perspective from the inside of this situation, looking out, may be, “I’m OK, fix the rest of the world, please.”

And that perspective can cause problems. Just as the rest of the world can’t see things through our eyes, we are unable to view things through the perspective of another without walking a mile in their shoes. Generally, this doesn’t happen, and consequently we don’t know what it’s like to walk in their shoes.

Indeed, we don’t know what we don’t know. Because it’s common for us to hope that others will change, we secretly maintain that hope and desire.

It may surprise you to hear yours truly, the owner/president/CEO/COO/doctor of a successful eye care facility, acknowledge being the least important person in the organization.

Here it goes:  I sign the paychecks, but I am the least important person in my organization.

First of all, patients/guests/clients/customers/whatever you choose to call them are substantially more important than any of us, in any business setting, because they are the reason that we exist – they have problems and we have solutions. They have questions and we have answers. They have symptoms and we have diagnoses. They have diseases and we have treatment plans.

The staff is probably equal in importance to the patient. They are always the point of first contact and are the face of the organization. They may be, at any given moment, slightly more or slightly less important than the patient, but regardless – both groups are more important than me.

And I could be the biggest idiot, a marginally competent yet somehow duly licensed health care professional, but if the patient feels satisfied with the experience and with the outcome of treatment, we all win.

I’m not a business consultant. I suppose that I could be; I could easily share my successes and failures experienced in business over the years.

(I’ve learned more from my failures.)

One thing I’ve learned and will never forget is that life occasionally presents us with certain golden opportunities – “moments of truth,” if you will.

How will you respond when life sends one your way?

Until next time,

Dr. Lee Newton

P.S. If you haven’t already, please grab a copy of Tom Ziglar’s book I referenced at www.10leadershipvirtuesbook.com. No financial interest, only interest in your success and growth.

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